150th celebration of the “Heart of Hobart”

It’s the centerpiece of Hobart’s magnificent Town Hall Ballroom and now – finally – it will be given the celebration it deserves.

The visually and sonically spectacular great organ will be played by internationally acclaimed Australian concert organist Thomas Heywood to mark his 150e birthday on Sunday, September 25.

Originally scheduled for 2020, the event was postponed for two years due to COVID, but now Hobart locals can come and witness this incredible instrument played by Australia’s only capable musician.

The organ was commissioned from JW Walker & Sons of London in 1868 for a princely sum of £950 (over $200,000 in today’s Australian currency) with the following strict instructions from the first organist in the town of Hobart, Frederick Packer in 1868.

“I can’t stress enough the need to avoid anything that screams or makes noise,” Mr Packer wrote.

“The room is a magnificent room for sound and a noisy organ would be a perfect abomination there.”

JW Walker & Sons certainly served its purpose as when it arrived in 1870 it was dubbed the second best instrument of its type in the southern hemisphere.

Sydney-based Mr Heywood said it was an honor and a privilege to be part of the celebration of such a magical instrument.

“The 150th anniversary concert will showcase the beautiful, varied and unique history of Hobart Town Hall’s great organ,” said Mr Heywood.

“When the town commissioned (wife) Simone and I to create the first DVD/CD of the instrument, we called it ‘The Heart of Hobart’ because that is exactly what these wonderful musical instruments were designed – the musical and cultural heart of the city.

“They can reach and entertain the widest possible audience and take people to another world, even for a short time.”

Although no two organs are the same, he said the Great Hobart City Organ was an exquisite example of its day due to its craftsmanship and maintenance.

“The Great Organ in Hobart Town Hall is a particularly fine example of a concert pipe organ,” he said.

“It was no-cost stuff in the 19th century, when it was ordered and shipped at great expense from England, and that it survives to this day says a lot about the quality of the instrument’s build and the care brought to it over the past 150 years.

“Instruments like this require major attention approximately every 50 years, which, when you think about it, is incredible.

“What else can you work on, then use regularly, that lasts half a century without requiring major work?

“And that’s another wonderful thing about these instruments – it’s like a gift from one generation to the next.

“Here we are, in 2022, directly benefiting from all the hard work of the council and Hobart City’s first organist, Mr Packer, in the 1860s.

“It is truly a special and precious living tradition.”

The free, paying 150e The anniversary concert will take place at City Hall in the City of Hobart on Sunday, September 25 from 2 p.m. and has already sold out.

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